Building a Cheap Media Centre

I’ve been asked a couple of times what it would cost of build a media centre PC/HTPC like mine (once people have seen it they love it), as you can see in my most recent write-up the answer can be ‘quite a lot.’ So I’ve been investigating cheaper options.

My Build

My HTPC consists of:

DescriptionPrice
Silverstone LC17 Case£65.67
Silverstone ST30NF Fanless PSU£71.09
Gigabyte MA78GM-S2H Motherboard£67.98
2*1Gb Crucial Ballistix DDR2 PC2-8500 RAM£26.70
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5050e CPU£52.83
Scythe Mini Ninja CPU Cooler£36.09
2*Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB£79.41/£77.04
Pioneer DVR-116DBK DVD Recorder£20.64
Microsoft MCE 2005 Remote and IR receiver£19.96
Microsoft IR Media Keyboard£23.48
Hauppauge Nova T 500 Dual Tuner£49.99
Other stuff (case fans, fan controllers, etc)£15.84
Windows Vista Home Premium Upgrade£65.52
 
Total:£672.24

I have left out the £37 for AnyDVD as unnecessary and the prices don’t include any postage I might have paid.

That’s a fairly pricey build (cheaper than some I’ve seen, and probably cheaper/better than a bought model).

A Cheaper Alternative

So I’ve been hunting around for a cheaper set of components. Some have come down since I bought them, some have gone up, but by trawling the forums and various online PC parts stores, here’s my suggestions:

DescriptionPrice
Antec NSK 2480 Case with PSU£84.98 (Ebuyer)
ASROCK A780GM-LE Motherboard£50 (Ebuyer)
2*1Gb DDR2 PC5300 RAM£16.98 (Dabs)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5050e CPU£45.62 (Scan)
Western Digital 500GB Caviar Green£39.68 (Scan)
LG GH22NS40 22x SATA£16.43 (Scan)
Nexos Wireless Multimedia Keyboard with TouchPad£24.99 (Ebuyer)
Hauppauge Nova TD 500 Dual Tuner
with IR sensor and remote
£53.59 (Ebuyer)
 
Total:£332.27

This doesn’t include any postage costs.

For that you should get a reasonably low power machine, capable of 1080p playback (you can add a Blu-ray drive should you wish) and with capacity to be upgraded later. It uses onboard sound (5.1) and graphics (HDMI).

Some alternatives were the Antec Minuet 350 case (£79.98 from Ebuyer), but it only supports half-height cards I think, which rules out the TV tuner, and it’s not as well designed as the 2480. I have left out a CPU cooler, the CPU will come with one, it’s fairly quiet from what I understand as the CPU is low power, possibly an after-market one may be needed (for example, Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 LP, £13.77 from Scan). I haven’t included OS, at the moment I would load Windows 7 release candidate on it for free (until July 2010), otherwise you’re looking at £60-90 more for Vista. Obviously any parts you can reuse help the cause.

In the future it may be the likes of a dual-core Atom with Nvidia ION will do the job, although I’m still not convinced they’re quite up to the job of acting as a full PVR (most don’t have the PCI slots for expansion and I’m not too keen on the USB tuners).